Stephanie Hargrave On Surviving The Covid Pivot
After moving to Brooklyn in 2020, pandemic lockdowns necessitate Stephanie Hargrave’s artistic reinvention.
This is a special Artists Up Close post, our regular post will hit your inboxes later tonight.
The following is an essay from artist Stephanie Hargrave about the power of the artistic pivot. When Stephanie proposed that we do an event (June 23rd at 7pm) about the power of the artistic pivot in reference to her own work and the work of Louise Bourgeoise and Lee Bontecou, I was ecstatic. Here’s a special preview of what Stephanie has to say about the power of the pivot in her artistic life and the lives of Lee and Louise.
Artist Stephanie Hargrave speaks on the artistic pivot:
Once Covid shut everything down after I had just moved to Brooklyn, NY, I began working on paper in the apartment (I couldn't work in encaustic due to the fumes and was, like we all were, stuck in place). This forced pivot helped me form ideas in 2D that helped me develop the sculptural work I wanted to do, and eventually allowed the two materials to have a dark conversation even though the processes were completely different. The work on paper was time consuming, meticulous work that was later obliterated with black ink entirely. I later rubbed and wiped areas out using the numerous hand wipes we were all using in those first months of the pandemic. The ink felt like a dark blanket over society, with moments of beauty being uncovered. There were so many kindnesses as well as fear and sickness at that time. These were all being expressed on paper, and informing my later clay forms, which began easing up a bit, as the virus lifted slowly. —Stephanie Hargrave, artist
· a person or thing upon which progress, success, etc., depends
· to modify (a policy, opinion, product, etc.) while retaining some continuity with its previous version
I have always felt like a late bloomer, but have invariably been able to pivot in life, whether from athletics to writing, jewelry design to jobs, or from painting to sculpture.
Two quintessential influences, Louise Bourgeois and Lee Bontecou, were exceptional examples of women who were not afraid to pivot. They both embraced painting, sculpture, realism, abstraction, the rough and the refined, the sexual (intended or not) and the asexual, light, dark, large, small, paper, canvas, metal, clay. They disregarded what was expected in favor of having full creative freedom, and neither embraced any one category. They pivoted whenever they saw fit. Bontecou even left the public art world completely for 25 years to teach and work without exhibiting. They both had a flair for the organic but embraced the mechanical too, whether in technique or with machine-referencing imagery. Changing mediums was done without apology, and it seems to me their insistence on pivoting is what holds them in such towering positions in the canon today.
I revere these artists in part because I love adaptability. I adhere to the idea that a person should always reserve the right to change their mind – to turn a corner when necessary. Science and art fall into this realm because they are never static (as opposed to, for example, organized religion) – they are always changing with new discoveries and revising themselves as new information comes along.
My work has always referenced biology. Being strictly secular, science is my belief system, and visual art my language. The intersectionality between the two is the fulcrum of my creative life. One definition of fulcrum is the pivot about which a lever turns, and for me, the turning lever is my art practice, and my practice is contingent on the pivot.
Early encaustic work centered on botany, organisms, and cell structures, and over time, the biology umbrella allowed for series offshoots that included an installation based on insects and the words once used to describe them, clay sculptures finished in black encaustic paying homage to fungi and bones, ink on Yupo paper recording my emotional state during Covid, pink paint on paper as abstracted bodily tissues, and x-ray referencing encaustic paintings that feature the translucent fish from the deepest crevices of the ocean. Unable to work in encaustic right after moving to Brooklyn, New York (which coincided with the start of the Covid Pandemic), I pivoted to clay and paper out of necessity. My focus became more about abstracting the body, on both a macro and micro level, whether human, sea creature or arthropod.
Without losing the threads of meaning, my pivots are (hopefully) less “about-face” changes and more a reflection of the steady march of time and my own aging. To me they feel like natural progressions. I do, however, fully expect the older work to be in conversation with the current work. The change from colorful 2D works to mainly black 3D work would seem an extreme departure if it did not speak so clearly to the beliefs I’ve always held – scientific unfolding, growth, abstraction, our emotional lives, and how we understand ourselves from the perspective of biological functioning. No doubt I will pivot again to color, to flat work, to other offshoots. That is the beauty of the pivot – it swings and is circular. It allows for all manner of freedom, including referencing one’s own work, producing generatively, circling back, and pivoting again.
I believe we will soon be listening to our bodies more, and studying our minds less, which would be a cultural pivot I’d certainly be interested in unpacking with the use of some sort of material, perhaps one I’ve not used before.
Are you ready to pivot in your artistic journey? Join us for an interactive and intimate conversation about the power of artistic reinvention, facilitated by writer Beverly Aarons and artist Stephanie Hargrave.
This isn't just another artist talk. It is a chance to connect on a deeper level with the artist and fellow attendees, to contribute to a powerful discussion about artistic reinvention, and potentially unlock the doors to your own creative transformation.
For only $25, you will gain access to this exclusive event, along with drinks and snacks.
Date: Friday, June 23, 2023
Time: 7pm – 9pm
Location: Juan Alonso Studio, 306 S Washington St #104, Seattle, WA 98104
Capacity: Limited seating
• Exclusive access to the interactive talk with Stephanie Hargrave and Beverly Aarons
• Complimentary drinks and snacks
• A unique opportunity to delve into the power of artistic reinvention
Don't miss this chance to reinvent, reshape, and rethink your artistic practice. Reserve your spot today!
This has been a special Artists Up Close post, our regular post will hit your inboxes later tonight. In the meantime, check out our previous article about Stephanie Hargrave.
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